The Art of Resting

We can just be, in our body, without effort.  Our heart will just beat.  Our lungs fill with air.  Our autonomic body systems will just function all on their own, without any input on our part.   It is a very good thing, this concrete tangible, physical, physiological thing called body; a place where we can be at ease, and deeply rest.  A place that is by its nature immediately grounding, calming and centering.  Knowing this, and making good use of this, can help us live into balance and wellbeing in all aspects of our life.

Your body is the place where your wellbeing begins, and the place that will sustain it in an effortless and joyful way.   Body is the resource, (always with you), that will allow you to notice what is vital, life giving, and refreshing in the world around you.

And the really wonderful thing about body is that we do not need to be an enlightened person to experience the kind of wisdom and wellbeing that comes from deeply resting in our body.   We simply have to consciously come home to body.   I like to think of it like landing a plane.    Just like landing a plane on the ground, we land in our body when we breathe deeply from our abdomen and bring our awareness and energy out of out thoughts and feelings, and into our body.  Then simply by releasing the tension in our body, we simultaneously release the tension in our mind, heart, and spirit.  It is really quite simple; we are just not capable of holding mental, emotional and psychological tension when our body is deeply, deeply at ease.  When our bodies are at ease our hearts and minds will follow.  This is a deep truth that I recognize daily as a massage therapist.

Our bodies do not naturally gravitate toward tension.  Our body wants to be at ease.  It is our lifestyle that puts tension into our body.   But because our bodies want to be at ease, they will quickly and deeply respond to even the slightest opportunity to let go and release.  A moment with our socks and shoes off in the cool grass, one big glorious stretch in the morning as we wake up, a few minutes softening our neck muscles with gentle movement and stretching.  A good full-bodied laugh.  Just thinking about all these things gladdens the mind and opens the heart, doesn’t it?

Our modern lifestyle puts enormous pressure and stress on us.  We have become used to going through our day-to-day life, expecting to carry a certain amount of stress and tension in our minds, hearts and body.

We are constantly thinking, planning, worrying.  Constantly trying to get from ‘point-a-to-point-b’ (without enjoying the journey in-between).  We are often multitasking, trying to do more than one thing at once, and pushing, so much pushing; pushing to do more, to get somewhere on time (despite a knot of traffic or over-filled schedules).  We push to achieve success, comfort, approval, wealth, fame, and importance, to be noticed, to fulfill our dreams to work for social justice.  We push others away.  We are pulled and pushed upon by the demands and pressures of job, expectations of others (or of our own self).  Our “days off” are filled with more things to do, that we don’t have time to do during the week.

It is no wonder that resting and calming has become a deep insight offered to us by some of our wisest spiritual teachers of today.    Indeed we can even think of it as an art, the art of resting.

This art of resting, begins in our body, and comes to us naturally as we relax and release tension in our muscles.    Doing a 5-minute body scan is a wonderful and easy way to practice the art of resting.  And it’s something anyone can do!  Let’s do it together right now:

Begin with relaxing your body, and the muscles of your body, releasing the physical tension held there.    Soften the muscles in your jaw.  Allow them to relax, and be slack.  Allow your shoulders to drop back down to their natural resting place, softening the unnoticed tension.  Relax your abdomen and the muscles of your abdomen.  Take in a deep breath, filling your lungs all the way up, and in a full release allow that air leave your lungs in one big wonderful sigh of relief.   Ahhhhh!  Lie down on the floor and stretch.

Then when you have released the tension in your muscles, find your breathe in our body and follow it for a few minutes, letting your body take the lead.  Begin to notice the details of one in-breath and one out-breath as they are already happening in your body without any effort.  Can you experience the coolness of an in breath against your nostrils, and how an out-breath doesn’t have the same coolness?  Your body has warmed it.   For a few breaths in and out, follow the coolness of an in-breath and the warmth of an out-breath; coolness against nostrils, warmth against nostrils.   Now, can you notice the gentle rise and fall of your chest and abdomen, as you breathe in and out.  Follow the rising of chest and abdomen and the falling of chest and abdomen, for a few breaths.

By doing this kind of body scan and mindful breathing, a little bit every day, we can deepen our wellbeing and increase our ability to be present with skill and grace, to our day-to-day life, in all it’s complexities, and demands.   Just breathe.  Land in your body!  Allow yourself to follow your breath, and trace all the refreshing life-giving systems and functions of your body.  It is a wonderful thing to rest in, this miracle we call body.   It has everything we need to practice the art of resting and deepen our own wellbeing, and mindful presence in the world.

There is a practical aspect to all of this that is essential to keep in mind:  the body responds to frequency and rhythm.  Like exercise and healthy eating, ease and wellbeing is something that blossoms in us when we set aside some time every day for resting and calming and thus giving ourselves what we need to remember what a body at ease is really like.

What way will you enjoy your body today?   Stretching is a wonderful way, yawning, a deep glorious sigh, is another way.   Set a few moments aside every hour to remember your body and re-learn ways to bring your energy out of your head and heart, and into our body, and enjoy!


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